Here we are for another week in television where I summarise my thoughts on a selection of episodes broadcast during the week. For this installment, we have a familiar favourite that rarely ceases to stop bringing the goods, three pilots bringing mixed reactions and the return of The Vampire Diaries.
As usual, I would love to hear your thoughts on the shows/episodes mentioned in this post, particularly regarding the pilots mentioned here. I’ve seen the reactions for some of them and I’m keen on hearing what you thought.
Homeland – Beirut is Back
Oh. My. Gosh. Now that is how you end an episode. Homeland’s second episode of its second season was an intense viewing from start to finish that managed to once again demonstrate Claire Danes’ astonishing acting skills while also ending on a truly unexpected and game-changing note.
I mentioned last week that one thing Homeland is exceptionally good at is cranking up the tension to astronomical levels at frequent intervals. Such an example from this week’s episode would be the pursuit through the streets of Beirut and the attempted assassination of Abu Nazir, which ultimately failed because of Brody’s skills at covert text messaging. Even though it was obvious that Brody would interrupt the plan and that it would fail, watching it unfold was truly edge-of-your-seat viewing.
Let’s also give yet more praise to Claire Danes and how she plays Carrie to such a magnificent degree. There’s a reason she won the Emmy this year and that’s because she sets a standard few others can match. Her panic attack on the rooftop this week was believable and just fantastic. It sounds like too high a praise to be realistic but it’s not, because she’s just that good.
Now, of course, we get to that ending. When I’m watching television, there are few moments when a twist in the plot will render me dumbfounded. Usually I just get surprised and move on. Rarely do I sit up, mouth agape and audibly voice my shock at what’s just unfolded. It’s just not something I do often. This week, however, Homeland did just that to me.
Saul discovering Brody’s suicide confession from last season, which was ultimately never used, took me by surprise to say the least. It’s so game-changing and heavy that having it happen at the end of the second episode would never have been expected. Judging from the promo for next week, things look set to get violent for Brody and I’m sure it’ll be fantastic, though hopefully not fatal for Saul.
Speaking of next week, I’ve heard considerable praise from those that have seen it, going as far as to label it the finest of the series to date. After this week, I’m practically frothing at the mouth to get my hands on it.
Arrow – Pilot
After joining Clark Kent in the latter seasons of Smallville, the famous Green Arrow has finally returned to The CW in his own show, and no longer with Justin Hartley inside the green costume. Arrow premiered earlier this week to quite a successful response, both critically and in the ratings, but was it all just hype or did it deliver? Fortunately, it did.
I’ll make no secret of the fact I am woefully uneducated in all things concerning the character and mythology of Green Arrow. The extent of my knowledge on the subject is so limited that I only know that he was stranded on an island for five years and can fire arrows with inhuman precision. As such, Arrow needed to appeal to somebody like me; somebody clueless regarding the subject matter while also appealing to those with foreknowledge. I cannot speak for one side of the spectrum but as a newcomer, I felt pleased with the result.
Arrow’s pilot made good on setting up the characters central to the story, the actual narrative and the back-story that will inevitably play a large part in the show, as well as having great cinematography and atmosphere throughout.
The leading man himself, Stephen Amell, played the character well, with the obvious damage from five years of isolation lingering in the background, while also looking the part to boot. I liked Justin Hartley’s interpretation of the character in Smallville but Amell’s version seems to have a darker edge that one would expect from Oliver Queen and it works very well.
There’s also a romance plot embedded in the show, as one would expect, with Dinah Lance, although it is far, far too early right now to see anything more into it besides giving Queen a female interest. As long as they don’t drag it out and focus on it to such a ridiculous degree as Smallville did, it shouldn’t be too much of a distraction from the main story.
Obviously, a pilot has to work that much harder to ensure that its viewers will want to return for more. Arrow laid down the foundations for stories that could potentially be interesting and while the obvious procedural nature has already shown a sign of being there with the names in Queen’s book, I don’t think it’ll be enough to detract from what has the potential to be a great show. It looks like The CW may have a hit on its hands here.
Oh and yes, if you were wondering, you weren’t the only one that saw the similarities between the Queen’s mansion in this show and the Luther mansion in Smallville. I’d go as far as to say they were exactly the same.
Chicago Fire – Pilot
I’ll keep this short and sweet but I felt I had to mention Chicago Fire here just to say that anybody considering watching the pilot should probably save their time and effort on doing something of more interest, like watching an ant crawl across the pavement or staring at a wall for forty minutes in the hope that it’ll fall on you and put you out of your misery.
Chicago Fire has to be one of the dullest, most predictable, lifeless and as paint-by-the-numbers as a show can get. For a show that concentrates on the ins and outs of a fire department, actually seeing more than one of the damn things might have been a good way to liven up the episode. Instead, we were treated to cliched, stereotypical characters, a plot devoid of any excitement and the absolute absurdity of Jesse Spencer attempting to talk with an American accent and failing miserably.
There is something about Chicago Fire that has cancellation written all over it. It was so underwhelming and poor that I would be astonished if its ratings don’t take a nose-dive from next week onwards. If you insist on checking the pilot out, by all means do so. Just take this advice from me: have something else at hand for when the boredom kicks in, like the off button on the television remote.
Beauty and the Beast – Pilot
In the third pilot I watched this week, it was the turn of The CW to bring back the popular story of Beauty and the Beast to a modern audience, complete with the ‘beauty’ being a hardened detective and the ‘beast’ being a hunk of a man with a scar as his only discernible beast-like trait. Inevitably, it was a miserable effort from start to finish.
A show like Beauty and the Beast relies heavily on the two characters that are at the centre of everything else. If they don’t work, the rest just collapses around them. While I don’t dislike Jay Ryan, no amount of scars or minor facial deformities are going to make him look any less attractive, therefore the ‘beast’ half of the equation is rendered obsolete. The ‘beast’ needs to be disgusting so that the process of the ‘beauty’ overlooking that and loving him can be appreciated more. That has no chance of happening here because there really is no beast to speak of. They may as well have named the show Beauty and the Hunk..
As for the ‘beauty’, I don’t think that Kristin Kreuk is a strong enough actress to lead a show. I don’t dislike her and she had her moments of glory on Smallville but she was totally unbelievable as a detective, and the first semblance of a romance between her and the beast felt forced. She’s not a rubbish actress but she’s not exceptional either.
On top of that, the writing was sloppy, the plot was predictable and it’s clear that all Beauty and the Beast will be is a love story between two attractive people with a little sprinkling of solving murders on top. What the show should be about has been tossed aside in favour of yet another generic cop show with twist. Beauty and the Beast has cancellation practically stamped on its name already, or at least it should have.
The Vampire Diaries – Growing Pains
So they did it then. After having Elena begin transitioning into a vampire at the end of season three, the season four premiere saw her feeling the full extent of that transformation. I was heavily expecting Bonnie to wave away the issue with magic, as is usually the case, but they didn’t, and I’m glad.
I’ve made no secret in the past of how much season three went in the wrong direction for me, particularly in regards to overusing Klaus and repeating the same story over and over again to pad out the season. That being said, it still ended on a satisfying note and I would like to believe that season four will be akin to the second, though it’s too early to tell yet.
The main reason I wanted Elena to become a vampire is because it adds something to the character and those around her. It’ll also be refreshing to see her able to defend herself now. Having Bonnie swish the issue away with her magic would’ve been terrible and it would’ve made the entire episode, plus the cliffhanger of the third season, feel pointless. She’s used too much as it is to remove problematic plot developments and that would’ve been the absolute pinnacle of them all.
Naturally it seems we’re still stuck with Klaus for the time being, unfortunately. I don’t dislike Joseph Morgan nor the character but the overuse of him has become a chore recently and it seems like whatever they do to be rid of him, he just keeps coming back like a strange smell that you can’t quite locate.
Overall, Growing Pains was a decent enough episode. It introduced a massive game-changer to the story and for once it wasn’t too afraid to carry it through. The repercussions of that development should be interesting to watch over the coming weeks.
Oh, and where is Katherine? I’m going to be asking this every week until I see her so you better get used to it I’m afraid.
And there we go. This week also saw Nashville, ABC’s country music-themed show, make its first appearance to a rather pleasing response. I haven’t been the biggest fan of Hayden Panettiere in the past but she played her part well and of course it goes without saying that Connie Britton was also fantastic. For a show that has a concept that wouldn’t normally appeal to me to have left such an impression is indicative of its quality.
Another mention has to go to Fringe once again, which delivered yet another superb episode as it continues its fifth and final season. I’ve seen people refer to it as feeling like a thirteen hour movie and I am beginning to see why. It’s such a shame it’ll be leaving the screen for good when it’s demonstrated time and time again how capable it is at producing excellent, imaginative sci-fi. Damn you Nielsen viewers, or the lack of you.